Three still in hospital after taxi hits crowd near Kremlin

2018-06-17 20:28
2018 Soccer World Cup (Supplied)

Moscow - Three people were recovering in hospital on Sunday after a taxi ploughed into pedestrians just steps from Moscow's Red Square during the World Cup in Russia.

Saturday's incident has focused attention on security at the planet's most watched event.

More than 600,000 foreign tourists are expected to descend on Russia during the June 14 to July 15 showpiece.

Colourful crowds of fans from the 32 participating nations have been congregating by Red Square to snap pictures of the Kremlin for the past week.

Moscow police underscored their sensitivity to the case by taking the unusual step of releasing a video of the taxi driver telling investigators he had meant no harm.

"I never violated anything in the Russian Federation," the man said in a pleading voice.

"And everything was fine at work. Everyone respected me."

Authorities identified him as 28-year-old Kyrgyz national Anarbek Chingiz.

He was shown telling police that he had been working for 20 hours and was planning to go home to rest after picking up one more customer.

"I myself do not know what happened," he said. "I got dazed for a second, stepped on the gas -- I wanted to step on the break."

The head of Moscow's health department said three Russians were in satisfactory condition in various hospitals on Sunday.

"They will all be released in the coming days," Alexei Khripun said.

The Mexican embassy said it had been in touch with two female nationals who were treated in hospital on Saturday. Khripun said a Ukrainian citizen had also received minor injuries.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants from poor ex-Soviet republics in central Asia such as Kyrgyzstan come to Moscow to take up low-paid jobs to send money money back home.

Many of them do not have legal permission to work and endure arduous living conditions.

But the region and Russia's north Caucasus are also home to a variety of extremist organisations with suspected ties to the Islamic State group and other Islamists.

The Moscow police department has opened a criminal case against the driver for road safety violations and ruled out any terror link.

The cabbie tried to flee the scene after two men ran up to his car and tried to drag him out.

CCTV footage showed at least a dozen people chasing after the slight man as he tried to escape down a crowded side street.

"I thought I was going to get killed -- simply killed," said the driver. "There were so many of them."

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